Putting a Price on reggae

Children of the Windrush

Observer senior writer

Friday, October 26, 2018

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This is the 70th year since the Empire Windrush docked in the United Kingdom, carrying hundreds of West Indians seeking work to bolster that country's war-torn economy. Most of them were Jamaicans who settled in communities in London, the Midlands, Nottingham, and Bristol. The Jamaica Observer presents the fourth in a 10-part series featuring Jamaican entertainment personalities who were either born in the UK or grew up there, and how living in that country impacted their lives.

Jamaican dancehalls and radio rocked to British singer Bitty McLean's Walk Away From Love and Make it With You in 2004. The hit songs are from his On Bond Street KGN, JA album, co-produced by Christopher “Chris Peckings” Price.

Born in London, he is the son of George “Peckings” Price, a Jamaican who moved to the United Kingdom in the early 1960s, and established Pecking's Records in 1974. He died in 1994.

Price and his brothers, Duke and Trevor, operate the company which is located in Shepherd's Bush, West London.

Given his father's ties to pioneer producers Clement “Coxson” Dodd and Arthur “Duke” Reid, Price said it was only natural for him to get involved in music — Jamaican music.

“I have been into reggae music from day one. My father was the pioneer of Jamaican music in the UK from 1960 when he arrived from Jamaica. I am the youngest of five boys and all my brothers except Valan came to London; Toney, Trevor and Duke all came in the 60s and were involved in the family business of selling records,” Price told the Jamaica Observer.

“As my father had a close relationship with Coxson Dodd, Mr Dodd would send his releases to my Dad to sell to the growing Jamaican community in London. Duke Vin and Count Suckle were his friends from Jamaica, and were the top sound men in the UK, so they help spread the word that Peckings is in business,” he added. “Duke Reid also would send his first recordings to Peckings also.”

Because his father had access to Dodd and Reid's massive vault of rocksteady music, Price was introduced early to the songs of Alton Ellis, Ken Boothe, Delroy Wilson and Prince Buster. In the mid-1970s, he got more into roots-reggae.

Price, 52, is at ease talking Jamaican patois. He said being aware of their heritage is not unique to Britons of West Indian origin.

“First generation children like myself are very much into Jamaican culture. We are heavily influenced by the language, music, food and hygiene, as well as dressing. These are really important even to how we bring up our children 50 years later,” he explained. “The Jamaican culture, above all West Indian immigrants, was the most influential as they demanded respect and would meet any hostility with verbal and physical rebuke,” Price stressed. “We spoke English with the non-black children and patois with all the black kids even from other Caribbean islands as they understood, and eventually most of the English kids understood what we were saying. I think the music helped bridge the racial tension.”

Pecking's Records is still the go-to location for rare rocksteady music, especially vinyl records. According to Price, vinyl remains a strong seller in the UK as fans have a passion for songs from Dodd's Studio One, Treasure Isle, or the catalogues of Prince Buster and Bunny Lee.

In 2003, he went in the studio with McLean, who was also born in London to Jamaican parents. They recorded songs for On Bond Street KGN, JA to classic Treasure Isle rhythms, with Walk Away From Love and Make it With You soaring up reggae charts around the world.

“The Bitty McLean album was great for us and him as it was something that was fresh and innovative from what was out there, combining a new artiste with a 60s feel that all those great producers created, brought back to life with a modern twist,” Price said. “My brother Dub Duke put it to Bitty to do this project and we spent months on creating the album and it was well received by music lovers all over. What pleased us was the way it was loved in Jamaica, as reggae from the UK never really had a big impact on Jamaica but this did and we are really proud.”

Presently, Price and his brothers are working on projects with Peter Spence, Da'Ville, Nyah, Carolene Thompson, Storm, Macka B, Tenna Star, Randy Valentine, and Gappy Ranks.

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